Swanson: Zuckerberg’s Congressional Hearing Only Helped Facebook


By Gavin Swanson, Opinion Writer

After his questioning from members of the Senate, the internet was saturated with memes making fun of Mark Zuckerberg for his behavior. Everything from using a seat lift, the way he drank water and his facial expressions were jumped on by the people of the internet. It might come to a surprise to those who are only familiar with the memes that Zuckerberg actually had a very beneficial visit to Capitol Hill, despite Twitter and Reddit suspecting that he may actually be a robot in disguise.

The media coverage of Facebook has not been very flattering for the past year or two. There have been fake news controversies where right-wing outlets claim that the news feed on Facebook is blatantly liberal and feature few conservative articles or points of view. More recently, there is the Cambridge Analytica scandal where it was revealed that millions of Facebook profiles were used for political research without user discretion. For these issues, Zuckerberg appeared before members of the Senate and House to answer to the American people.

The Senate appearance was pretty embarrassing. Not for Zuckerberg, but for the members of the Judiciary and Commerce, Science and Transportation Committees who asked the questions. The first rule for attorneys, politicians and other professionals of law in questionings, is to always know the answer to the questions you ask. After the questions went answered, it was clear that these senators did not know many of the answers to their questions.

The conversation is filled with snappy gotcha questions thrown out by congress. Zuckerberg took advantage of these questions and threw them right back at committee members. Senator Grassley asked if Facebook required the deletion of transferred data and Zuckerberg responded by saying that they did. Grassley asked why Facebook doesn’t warn its users about how Facebook uses their data and who is able to see it. Zuckerberg responded by saying that users have always had the power to control who sees this information. Senator Nelson asked if Facebook was considering having users pay to turn off targeted advertising. Zuckerberg responded by saying that users can turn off targeted advertising by turning off third-party information sharing.

The worst example of this was the line of questioning done by Senator Kennedy. The following questions asked by Kennedy were: is Facebook going to give control of user data to the users, will users be able to delete their data, will Facebook allow users to know who their data is being shared with, will Facebook allow users to prohibit the sharing of their data and will users be able to move data from Facebook to another social media platform. To all of these questions Zuckerberg responded that these features were already accessible to users.

These questions achieved to only display a lack of competency and misunderstanding on the part of our representatives concerning their approach to issues that pertain to social media, the internet and news media in general. Many of these questions could have been answered by asking an aide to do some ground level research on Facebook. Apparently, this wasn’t done, so instead what we got was a bunch of old guys asking the founder and CEO of Facebook about how they could configure their Facebook account settings. It’s nothing short of a waste of time and an embarrassment to the American political system.

Luckily for us, the House hearing was much more competent, and Zuckerberg actually received a fair share of tough questions. However, by sitting in the congressional chambers and answering basic questions, taking responsibility and saying that Facebook is going to work to improve in the future, Zuckerberg was able to bring Facebook back from its crisis, and company stocks have risen since his appearance. The lesson to be learned from this is that we need to elect representatives who can stay informed and on top of things in our ever growing, advancing and ever-changing world. Until then, the companies that run our world will be able to get around all of the questions presented by our out-of-touch politicians.